We continue the series of posts for the BBC-R Persons column and would like to introduce you to Alexei Tscvijak, the Shop Manager at our plant. We spoke with Alexei to learn more about production and assembly process of BBC-R bearings and their control.
Good afternoon, Alexei! Could you please tell us what the shop manager is responsible for in a bearing manufacturing company?
– Good afternoon! The responsibilities of the Shop Manager include the management of direct work on the production and release of products, that is, bearings. If you read the job description, it says: “Responsible for satisfaction, planning, etc.”, but in two words we can say that the Shop Manager is responsible for ensuring that the products produced by the shop reach the consumer in due time, of the proper quality and in the correct amount. This is the main duty, which already includes resource planning, personnel development and the like.
That is, your principal duty is precisely management of the production process, isn’t it?
– Yes, indeed. It is management of the process of product manufacturing and packaging, shipment and so on.
How is the shop work structure arranged? What sections does it consist of?
– We have three stages of production that is three main areas: a grinding area, a preparatory area and an assembly area. We have a grinding and assembly areas on the site only. There is also a lathe shop, but we have transferred it to another company.
The first area is preparatory operations, grinding of the mounting surfaces of the rings (ends and outer diameter).
The second area is grinding of base working surfaces. This is just the raceway and hole surface.
The third area is direct assembly of bearings. It is there that we receive finished products (bearings) after assembly (just from the rings that have been ground in the first and second areas). We produce ball, roller and spherical bearings. Tapered rollers, cylindrical rollers are all rings. They are grinded on the grinding sites, and the components are taken from our warehouses. Assembly takes place at the assembly site, as well as packaging of products and their preparation for shipment. That is, there are three large sections, and the products pass all three sections before we receive a final product.
Alexei, please tell us how many employees are currently employed in your workshop
– Currently, there are 36 direct workers. Their main trades are a grinder and an assembly fitter. Of course, it cannot be helped without preparation, so we have handlers, storage personnel and general-duties men who provide production with other services.
Could you tell me whether many young specialists work in your shop?
– If we talk about production, the average age of our employees is 40. Experienced employees, so to speak, “old-timers” work for us. For example, there is a very good mechanic, and a wonderful process specialist.
Do young specialists who have just completed their training come to you?
– No, they come to us first, and then they undergo training.
That is, you hire really young specialists and train them?
– We hire young people, who become specialists here.
Do you do both training and retraining?
– This condition cannot be dispensed with. Retraining is mandatory once a year. The Director requires it and we are very happy about this, because we undergo retraining and recertification every year. Target courses are very serious, and we have them every year. We also have environmentally-oriented courses, quality management system-oriented courses, and professional courses. Training of newcomers is just the main thing on which we pay great focus. When a person is just hired, he first completes a three-month probationary period, during which he is taught the basics of the profession, and after 3 months he is ready to be retrained, that is taught more profound, so that a person could study the profession into which he is now immersed more deeply. Therefore, training is such an ongoing process that takes place at the plant. This helps us to keep our personnel in good shape.
Well, this is all about product quality. And, by the way, speaking about quality, we would like to ask you the following: many people are interested in how the quality control process takes place in production?
– Generally speaking, the issue of quality is the most serious, because the main criterion for a bearing is its safety. In addition, of course, it should be durable, high quality, and so on, but its main property should be safety, because a bearing is placed in rotating units, and the breakdown of these units can lead to very serious consequences. Therefore, quality issues are not limited to what we just check. The issue of check in quality-control areas is one of the points of the quality system. In our company, the main emphasis is not on local inspections, although it is impossible to operate without them, but on the actual analysis of the causes of possible occurrences of low-quality products. This is an important point, which is a risk analysis. Today, we pay the greatest attention to it. Of course, if we talk about control, we have acceptance control, in-process control. Our guidelines prescribe how often to measure, how to measure, how much to measure, who measures, when to measure. All these guidelines are strictly followed by our personnel.
That is, the control process is documented?
– Indeed! It is here, there and everywhere and always, but I repeat once again that we are focusing on a system that allows us to prevent the occurrence of these defects.
Such a sophisticated approach to prevent certain consequences in the future.
– Yes, it is. This is imposed on us by the Quality Management System.
How is the working day arranged at the plant?
– There is an 8-hour working day at the plant.
Including your shop too, right?
– It is everywhere, of course. This is the factory staffing table, which is approved, signed, etc. We have a break per day and two 10-minute breaks every two hours. By the way, meals are free for our employees at lunchtime. This is actually very important. Perhaps you know, of course, such companies, but I do not know of a single company where the employer simply feeds all his employees who come and eat for free. We provide meals for everyone without exception.
Yes, of course, thanks. Then let’s talk about challenges in the production. What stage in the bearing production do you consider to be the longest, most difficult, and who is responsible for these most difficult stages?
– If we talk about the bearing production, then the most responsible and technically complicated is, of course, grinding production and grinding of raceways. In my opinion, this is the most time consuming operation. It takes the longest amount of time.
Is this machine tool operation?
– This is work on automatic lines and on stand-alone machines. For example, we have 10 machines for grinding the ends and outer diameter, and these 10 machines provide the grinding area. We have 105 machines and 12 automatic lines in the grinding area.
So, it turns out that the most difficult stage is grinding?
– Yes, it is. But again, we can say that the assembly has its own issues, the centering adjustment has its own as well. Each site is important, and there is no such thing that this one is unimportant, and this one is so difficult, no. I say that this area has the longest processing time, and the quality of the bearings is based there. Of course, this includes metal, incoming control, ends, outer diameter – all that matters. The qualification of employees should be a little higher there, because these are automatic lines, it is all complicated.
Let’s talk about plans. Can you tell us if there are plans to upgrade the shop, which new technologies can be introduced in the future?
– Let’s put it that way that this 2021 was quite difficult, because this whole pandemic story left its mark on everyone including us. But, nevertheless, the plant was developing, the plant was mastering some new things for itself and for consumers, which was the most important thing, even in the most hard and difficult times. For example, we passed recertification last year. We received a Quality Certificate and an Environmental Safety Certificate as well. It was in the spring, auditors came for this purpose.
What about the equipment? Is it somehow stable, or is it still being upgraded over time?
– Currently, we have state-of-the-art equipment; it is too early to talk about any modification, but we refined the mechanisms in the assembly area this year. This is feeding movement, additional mechanization.
Do you mean new improvements of the equipment that you already have?
– Yes, this is the first stage. We tried it on one site and transferred it to all the others after it worked. As for discharge devices – they are new now. We used to “catch” with our hands, but today it is an automatic process.
Is the software updated?
– The software is updated if there are innovations. Right now, we work on installation of new software, because there were some flaws, which, in our opinion, could lead to the release of low-quality products. This was detected, and the “electronics engineer” delivered new software.
Do you have your finger on the pulse and update your software in a timely manner?
– There is another very important news – we received completely new equipment today – large packaging complexes, two of which are being installed in the production area now (one has been installed and commissioned, the second is being installed, and the third will be delivered to us soon). This will enable us to produce and release single-packed bearings automatically. This is important, because today we cannot make a beautiful ideal packaging and a beautiful box to attract people who use our products.
So, you even undertake the creation of packaging?
– Well, of course! This is a new machine, it has now been launched, and it works now.
What is this machine called?
– This is a Single-Packed Bearing Packaging Complex. Before this machine, we rolled the rolls. I would like also add that our equipment and our capabilities allow us to make non-standard bearings, because we have orders when a consumer says: “Please add a different amount of lubricant for us”. And we do it. We can fulfil customized orders
Do you receive such custom orders from time to time?
– Oh, sure. We have prospects.
Speaking about the main achievements of a tough year, you can highlight, among other things, constant work on the upgrade of equipment, the introduction of new lines. Maybe you have anything else specifically for your shop?
– Trainings are constantly held. Audits are scheduled for the end of the year.
Is there maybe any increase in the number of products manufactured?
– This is also present. We fulfil orders, and there are companies that, despite what is happening, are increasing orders. To date, since the beginning of the year, we have doubled the production output for the Minsk Tractor Works, and we do not intend to stop there. The same low-noise ENQ bearings with special grease are in high demand of the engine plant, whereof order quantity is probably one and a half times more than last year.
I see! Thanks a lot! Alexei, could you please tell us who you are in ordinary life, what are your hobbies?
Who am I in ordinary life? Well, I am a husband and a father. I have four children, and if you want an answer to the question about my hobby, this is my hobby: you have four children and you need to devote time to them.
Do you devote time to your family?
– Yes, because it is really interesting to me. Aside from my second home (my plant), my favourite pastime is traveling with my family. And it doesn’t matter where we go: to St. Petersburg, or to Madrid, or to Carnikava – it is always interesting for me. We are always great together; they teach me a lot. They all live with us, because they are still underage, so it is an interesting experience. This is my hobby, my joy, and so on.
Alexei, we wish you further professional success and thank you for the exciting conversation!